Is Networking Overrated?
Adam Grant, a well known Organizational psychologist, Wharton professor, and New York Times bestselling author wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times in late August of this year entitled, Good News for Young Strivers: Networking Is Overrated.
This article, and to be fair, the title of the article, really struck a nerve with me. But, here’s the thing, I really like Adam Grant.
In fact I’ve read a few of his books and watched his famous Ted Talk, Are you a Giver or a Taker and I’ve even used some of his research in presentations I’ve facilitated over the years.
That being said, at firstthe title of his article and some of his opinions in the article rubbed me the wrong way; but at second glance I came to realize that much of what Adam was sharing was an innovative approach to view networking.
Let’s take a look at three statements Adam makes in this article and dissect them so that we can both respect his opinions and view networking through a continued positive lens.
#1. “If the very thought of networking makes you throw up in your mouth, you’re not alone. Networking makes us feel dirty — to the point that one study found that people ratesoap and toothpaste 19 percent more positively after imagining themselves angling to make professional contacts at a cocktail party.”
Here’s the thing, Adam’s not wrong here, nor is the research, but do we really need to visualize ourselves and others throwing up in our mouths just because we think about networking?!
I know what he’s trying to say, which is that networking can cause a lot of stress and overwhelm for people and he’s not wrong. But rather than intentionally thinking about networking with such disgust I would encourage people to shift their mindset from one of throwing up to one of ease, peace and value. I’ve shared this quote from my friend Tristan Powers before, but it’s powerful enough to share it again. Before Tristan walks into any networking situation she stops at the door, takes a deep breath and says to herself, “I belong in that room and so does everyone else.” I absolutely love this saying, both because of its simplicity and its powerfulness.
When we can shift our mindset to something positive and productive we’re much likelier to see the results we want rather than find ourselves in a pile of ‘throw up’.
#2. “...we’ve all been warned that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Success is supposed to come to the suave schmoozers and social butterflies. It’s true that networking can help you accomplish great things. But this obscures the opposite truth: Accomplishing great things helps you develop a network.”
I agree and disagree with Adam’s above statement. Yes, if you can accomplish great things you’ll definitely grow an incredible network around you.
That being said, many people are looking to grow a network so thatthey can begin to feel enough confidence and support to start doing incredible things and often times one needs a strong network around them in order to start creating and building.
I’m not suggesting that people lay around in a puddle of their excuses waiting for great things to happen to them or that they assume just because they have great ideas that others will magically appear and help them. We all have to take action and initiative for the things we want to see come to fruition AND it’s ok to be at step number one and seeking support from those around you to help you get to step number two.
Often times the greatest ideas come from brainstorming with others and being open to the idea that your original plan will need to shift and pivot.
Lastly, I would encourage anyone looking to build or maintain a strong network to start being vulnerable in their networking conversations so that others can begin to hear their ideas and thoughts and then help them take those to the next level! If you need a little boost on how to incorporate more vulnerability into your life check out this incredible Ted Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, by Brene Brown, it will definitely motivate you in the right direction!
#3. And don’t feel pressure to go to networking events. No one really mixes at mixers. Although we plan to meet new people, we usually end up hanging out with old friends. The best networking happens when people gather for a purposeother than networking, to learn from one another or help one another.
The words pressure and networking are not a good combination. They suggest that every networking situation involves a ‘should’ and as someone once said to me, “You wouldn’t ‘should’ on your friends so don’t ‘should’ on yourself.” This notion of ‘should’ or if you’re not picking up what I’m putting down (shit) is a terrible way to ‘motivate’ or think about networking.
I never want my clients (or anyone for that matter) to feel pressure to network, However many professionals need to network in order to maintain their jobs and I believe that the smartest professionals, even those not looking for new opportunities at the moment, are constantly maintaining their network(s). In fact, LInkedIn and Lou Adler proved this notion in a study completed in 2015-2016, which highlights the fact that networking is the #1 way people find new jobs and I would add to that, opportunities.
Adam’s idea that, “the best networking happens when we gather for a purpose other than networking…” is something I agree with and have seen great success in with my own MeetUp group, #inspired5280and at other events where people come together because they have common values, shared interests AND are looking to connect or reconnect with others.
Going to an event ‘just to network’ can be hard and generally puts a lot of pressure on us to perform and even feel the need to act like someone that we’re not. Rather when we identify causes, organizations, events that align with what we value, why we do what we do or because we are genuinely interested in connecting with the people who we know or hope will be there we increase our odds of not only feeling (and coming across as more confident) but being able to truly listen to others, see how we can help them and of course share various ways that others can support us.
Think about it, when was the last time you left a networking event or any event for that matter and felt 1. Good about yourself, and 2. LIke you were able to help someone else? Odds are that you believe in the cause or theme of the event, believe in the work of the organization hosting the event or being honored or spent quality time connecting with only 1 or 2 people and really learned more about who they are, than just what they do.
There’s nothing wrong about attending networking events with friends or people you already know. Just be careful not to isolate yourselves in a corner or come across as cliquish. If you come with someone you already know, like and trust prep each other to help introduce yourselves in a way that you might not do on your own, aka build up their credibility by introducing them to someone new and share a few highlights of them personally or professionally that they wouldn’t normally share. This is a great way to meet new people, continue hanging out with those you already know and share information that normally gets left behind.
After you read this blog and Adam’s article I’m curious to know, do you think networking is overrated? Share your thoughts on my linkedin page by clicking here, I’d love to hear your ideas!
As always stay connected,